Democrats in the state House are joining a parade of lawmakers trying to reform the inflated way Sound Transit calculates car tab fees that help pay for the Sound Transit 3 package.
Five bills were introduced by Democratic representatives Friday that seek to make the car tab fees cheaper by overhauling the calculations, to offer rebates for some on taxes collected for the transit package and to create accountability measures for the agency.
ST3 is set to raise $28 billion in new taxes, including higher car tab fees.
“I think ultimately people are looking for relief and ideally some dollars in their pockets,” said state Rep. Christine Kilduff, a University Place Democrat who sponsored one measure and is co-sponsoring the others.
The legislation comes after The Seattle Times reported Sound Transit’s calculation formula, set in state law, is not in line with the actual resale value of cars.
A slew of Democrats in the House are now trying to make changes at the agency, too. Democrats have a majority in the chamber.
House Bill 2147, introduced Friday by Democratic state Rep. Mike Pellicciotti of Federal Way, would make the values of cars depreciate faster than the current schedule, with the aim of lowering car tab fees.
State Sen. Dino Rossi, R-Sammamish, introduced a similar bill in late February to calculate car tab fees based on vehicle values provided by Kelley Blue Book or the National Automobile Dealers, whichever is lower.
In 2006, lawmakers passed a different way to calculate vehicle values, but it won’t be applied to the car-tab fees imposed under ST3 until 2029, when Sound Transit is done paying off older bonds.
Geoff Patrick, a spokesman for Sound Transit, said the agency is still analyzing the bills that would affect their car tab calculations and plans to take “a very close look” at whether they could change how they calculate car tabs sooner than 2029.
At this point, he said Sound Transit doesn’t have an immediate position on efforts to change the formula.
State Rep. Judy Clibborn, a Democrat from Mercer Island who chairs the House Transportation committee, plans to hold a work session on the car valuation issue soon, according to a House Democrats’ news release.
Other lawmakers in the House want to go a step further in easing the costs of taxes that pay for ST3.
State Rep. Kristine Reeves, a Democrat from Federal Way, introduced House Bill 2148 that would let Sound Transit offer rebates to low-income people of up to 40 percent on car tab fees and property tax charges that go to ST3.
Two other measures would require updates on the progress of ST3 to be provided to vehicle and property owners paying for ST3.
Pierce County voters rejected ST3, but favorable votes in King and Snohomish counties allowed it to pass. Pierce County is still on the hook for the higher taxes and car tab fees that help fund the transit package.
Sound Transit plans to build 62 new miles of light rail, among other transit upgrades, under ST3.